Being a bench player and backing up Alex Rodriguez is not a terrible way to make a living. Eric Chavez is one person who seems to really enjoy it, especially after being in a place where he shared the daily burden of repeating high expectations.
Once or twice a week is fine for Chavez and last night was the moment when he delivered the go-ahead RBI single in the eighth inning off Arthur Rhodes in a 6-5 victory over the Texas Rangers.
“People talk about changes of scenery, and whatever that means, I don’t know,” Chavez said. “But I’d been there my whole career, and the last few years hadn’t been working, so I needed to change some things up. It’s worked out so far.”
As he engaged the media pack, Chavez was contrasting the differences between Oakland and New York. In Oakland, he was the guy, especially after one star after another left via free agency or trade and with the Yankees – he is one of the background pieces capable of producing when necessary.
Chavez went 2-for-4 in place of Rodriguez, who received an MRI on his rib oblique.
“We thought that he was going to play an important role for us this year,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He looked healthy moving around, he was swinging the bat great. He’s been outstanding.”
Outstanding would be a nice adjective to describe the two-out at-bat, Chavez put together against Rhodes.
With Mark Teixeira in scoring position and Nick Swisher on first base, Chavez watched two sliders miss the strike zone. After fouling and taking a four-seam fastball, Chavez grounded the same pitch up the middle as Teixeira slid home.
“I really like (my role) a lot,” Chavez said. “I really didn’t like having that title (in Oakland) anyway, you know. I just like to get my work in, and when (manager) Joe (Girardi) puts me in, I just try and do my best. I don’t have to worry about all that other stuff.”
Chavez’s big day concluded a weekend of productivity from other new acquisitions, which also included Freddy Garcia allowing two hits in six innings during a rainstorm Saturday afternoon.
Russell Martin, who signed with the Yankees after an injury-plagued fifth season in Los Angeles, hit one of three Yankee home runs, smashing a fifth-inning offering from Alexi Ogando, who entered with a spotless ERA. Ogando also gave up Robinson Cano’s solo shot in the second and Curtis Granderson’s two-run home run in the sixth that briefly gave the Yankees a 5-4 lead.
Rafael Soriano, who had blown a CC Sabathia start April 5 against Minnesota and gave up two runs Saturday, was flawless during a nine-pitch eighth inning as he stranded David Murphy at first.
“You’re talking about some guys who have played in really important games, guys that are really experienced, have been in the playoffs a lot in their career,” Yankees manager Girardi said. “I think that makes somewhat of a difference.”
Soriano became the winning pitcher because Joba Chamberlain could not do the same in the seventh, denying Sabathia his first win.
Sabathia is winless in his first four starts for the first time since 2008. He remained that way because he could not retire Adrian Beltre or Michael Young.
Beltre is now 5-for-25 lifetime off Sabathia after a four-RBI performance. Young scored on two of Beltre’s hit sand also delivered the tying double off Chamberlain in the seventh to extend his hitting streak to 15 games in the Bronx.
“CC made some pitches; they just seemed to find ways to put the barrel on the ball, especially Beltre and Michael Young,” Martin said. “They didn’t seem to miss many pitches tonight. If you take away those two hitters, I think he had a great outing.”
Martin is partially right, but no Yankee had as great an outing as Chavez.
Rodriguez went for an MRI during the game that did not reveal any damage. He spent most of last night in the training room and his oblique/back has him day-to-day for Tuesday in Toronto.
“I’d like to think that I pulled myself out hopefully with perfect timing,” Rodriguez said before last night’s game. “I felt that if I went out there and took a violent swing, perhaps I could have put myself at risk for maybe a couple weeks [on the disabled list] … so I hope not.”
Phil Hughes was placed on the DL Friday with a dead arm and participated in long tossing with pitching coach Larry Rothchild. Hughes is accompanying the team to Toronto and will do the same either Tuesday or Wednesday.
Bartolo Colon will make his Yankee debut as a starting pitcher Wednesday. The righty will face Brett Cecil in his first start since July 24, 2009.
Brett Gardner’s first game batting ninth against a right-handed starting pitcher did not go well. After going hitless in three at-bats, he was lifted for Andruw Jones against Arthur Rhodes in the seventh.